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Why you should have a side project

isarisariver profile image Marian Originally published at cow-pilot.io ・3 min read

What is a side project?

A side project is something that you are working on aside from your main objective or job. As a developer, it usually means you are coding in your personal time outside of your main job. The goal of a side-project is often to make a living, but there are many more benefits of side projects other than making money.

Summary

  • Working on something will help you come up with new ideas
  • The best way to learn something new is to take the plunge and use it in real-life examples
  • They help you become better at what you are doing

Working on something will help you come up with new ideas

Ideas don’t come just from thin air. They come from inspiration. That’s why methods like brainstorming are so powerful because they involve creating many ideas in a short period of time. Working on a side project is like an idea generator. For example, the idea for oneword.domains was born while trying to find a good name for a side project. I started working on Cow Pilot while trying to make sense of my to-do list for another project.

When you work on a side project, you will face a lot of problems. Often these problems lead to the “What if there was a tool for that?” questions that give you the idea for your next project.

The best way to learn something new is to take the plunge and use it in real-life examples

Courses are great to learn the basics of new technology or programming language. But they can only teach you so much. The best way to learn something is to actually use it. Build something of your own with it.

Want to learn React and love cooking? Build an online cookbook with your favorite recipes. Look at other recipe sites for inspiration.

They help you become better at what you are doing

It takes a lot of work to get good at something. Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said,

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a whole book about the “10.000 hour rule”.

Side projects are a great way to hone your skills and become better at what you do. When you are still new, it can be hard to think about what to build with a limited set of skills. But your skills will grow while you are working on it and no matter where you are when you start, you will improve while you are creating it and soon you will wonder why you ever had any doubts about it.

Projects can also evolve over time to match your skills. Let’s go back to the online cookbook with your favorite recipes. After you have built the cookbook and added a few recipes, you have the idea to build a user interface to add recipes within the app rather than in your code. You build it and when that is done you want to have more recipes, so you look for an API that serves recipes and includes them in your app. Then you want to share it with others, so you add authentication and let other people add recipes and comment on others.

In the beginning, it might have been scary to build an app with all these functionalities, but by building it step-by-step matching our progress it has grown organically and you didn’t even have to think about it.

Conclusion

In this article, we talked about how side projects are a great way to

  • generate new ideas
  • learn something new
  • improve your skills

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know what your side project should be. Just pick a topic you are passionate about and start building.

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